This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Roundstone’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
On rewatch, it became a lot more apparent to me what Scorsese was doing with the pacing, editing and structure as this is all from Sheeran’s recollection of the events. It’s why the Detroit sequence while covering a relatively short amount of time is given the most screen time in terms of a continuous stretch of the entire film, while his experiences in the war or even the first hour and a half which is paced and told like it is Goodfellas 2.0 is so much shorter and so much faster. The editing is so top notch here that Scorsese is literally using it as an extension of Sheeran. It is clear that the war was a transformative moment for the rest of his life, but the only moment he shares is of one where he has to kill two people digging their own grave. This is interesting since the violence committed here is virtually the same as the violence committed in every other moment through this film: quick and stone cold.
If American Sniper was a clear critique at an American culture that persuades and glorifies the idea of fighting for country and hides the sheer ugliness behind it, The Irishman is a damning criticism of the entire American Institution that breeds people into killers that goes into a point where there is no line between what is wrong and right. Sheeran himself grapples with this in the film, where for him, the idea of the sins he is committing gets replaced as following orders meaning a sign of respect and what is “right”. This is clearly equated to following orders when he was in the military and from that point, the connection is made between American institutions like the Military or as we see later on, the Government and Labor Unions, all working like the Mob.
On rewatch it became more apparent to me how Scorsese made sure to remind us that this was all in Sheeran’s perspective (the quick shots to Sheeran essentially saying that there wasn’t much more to this event than this) in terms of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa or even in his thoughts about Hoffa being as big as the Beatles and then in the final scenes talking to a younger nurse who doesn’t give a shit about who Hoffa is and frankly isn’t even interested in talking about any of it. Sheeran tells a story that is synonymous to many of the gangster epics in Scorsese’s filmography and yet there is an underlying sense of emptiness and pointlessness to it all, much like in his first gangster movie, Mean Streets. In that film I had found the parallelism interesting in how we see these white men in suits being the primary subject of the film talking about things that seem of high importance financially, yet struggle to even pay back their rent or their small loans. And that observation is heightened here in even more subtler ways. Sheeran is living what is initially assumed to be a more lavish lifestyle with the mob, yet he mostly meets other seemingly powerful men in empty restaurants, gets told by them how great a friend Russ is in order to make him continue listening, and is even told by Russ that their people have the influence to murder the president of the US despite never truly having the power to take anybody of importance out until it is Hoffa, who is only killed because the mob successfully manipulated Sheeran into believing their implied power. Sheeran is given a big gold ring that is told by a manipulative man played by Pesci to represent an exclusive status not just as for part of the Mob but even part of his race, but it becomes apparent as the film goes on that he was only given the ring in order to follow orders and Murder the one person he had a mutual appreciation and love for. It’s moments like these that reminded me of films like American Sniper or Wolf of Wall Street, where things like money, the American flag, or medals are all just American society’s ways of inventing some kind of exclusivity in an object in order to incentivize people to carry out their missions of self interest. This is what I really meant when i called the Irishman one of the greatest American films because it is so large in scope and makes vast connections from the Mob to corporations like the military and labor unions to paint a picture of the ugliness of America and how individuals ultimately suffer at the hands of it all.
Anyways I feel like one could write multiple books on this film. There is frankly so much analysis that can be done in how this film details the idea of politics, friendship, America, family neglectance, patriarchicy, and of course religion and it’s connection to American institution. Scorsese is the best filmmaker this decade and frankly if somebody told me he is a top 10 filmmaker to ever exist, I could believe it because I don’t think it’s even possible to come out with a 3 film streak like that of Wolf - Silence - Irishman let alone the ton of incredible films preceding that.